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Beginnings are always the toughest for me. It’s the gateway to the whole book. What I say in that first line will set my tone for what’s to come. And what better way to say that then the title.
When I walk into a store, I beeline to the books. It can be Target. It can be Walmart. It can be Hyvee. But I go straight there. Barnes and Noble is heaven for me. I spend a lot of time perusing the library, up on the second floor running my fingers over the thousands of titles. But the single most thing I look for in a book is a title. And the cover. I’m sorry but I’m that person. Tar and feather me if you must but some of the best books I’ve ever read were because I saw them on a shelf, facing out and picked them up for a two-page middle of the book teaser. My mind works like a projector. When I read the words, it plays out like I’m watching it on the screen. The title helps to give me an idea if it might be something I’m interested in. The cover helps me pick it up. I never read a back-cover blurb without reading two pages right in the middle. That’s just the way I am.
Two years ago I was in Phoenix at a Walmart in Peoria right off the 101 Loop. They have the biggest book selection ever. Right in the middle of the store. It stretches as far as the eyes can see. I was in need of another book to read. A two and a half hour flight back to Missouri is rough for someone who doesn’t like to fly and I like to spend my time chewing on my fingernails and reading. I searched the new releases. Nothing caught my eye that I didn’t already own. And I head towards the back section. That’s where I saw it. The cover was beautiful, purpleish with gold tones. The middle was a couple. The guy muscular, tan, his dark hair worn longer and the woman, blonde, petite, her hair was plastered to her. He was leaning into her, her mouth ready to be kissed.
Hard Evidence. (Pamela Clare)
I smiled to myself. A play on words- my kind of book. I picked it up, flipped right to the middle of the book. I can’t repeat the scene. But one might say… uh, um… it was hot. Super hot. Hotter than the Sahara on the most blistering of days. I stood right there in the store fanning myself with this book. My face went flushed. I might’ve sweated a little. I dunno. I was in Phoenix. It was pretty warm.
Let’s just say I snatched that book up faster than a rabbit can destroy a strawberry patch.
I’m not the best titlist. It goes hand in hand with my inability to write beginnings. I can’t title something I don’t know exactly. Double Vision, my WIP, wasn’t always DV, but I can tell you it happened not too long after I established I was going to start my quest for the original. The plot is completely different as well. My heroine started out as an investigative journalist a little over two years ago. Now my heroine is a special agent for the FBI, working in the cyber crimes unit.
This is my first beginning. My working title at the time (which stayed for all of two days, I think. I had to go look up my emails from two years ago. LOL) was Practice Makes Perfect Murder. Just like a headline. Or at least I thought it was in my head. (I’m telling you I suck at titles. I always have. I just happen to have the best titlist in the world as a best girlfriend.)
“I’d always thought that paper and ink smelled a lot like heaven and a little like hell. Let’s just say I was leaning a little more towards the hell part today.
It was Friday and the office at Midwestern Daily had been a cluster of activity up until about three hours ago. I had been at my desk for 12 hours today and hadn’t accomplished one damn thing. Not one word was written on my computer screen and I still had a nasty red-penciled marked article sitting on my desk courtesy of Dave Winton, Editor-in-Chief. But at the moment I was too fed up to really give a flying rat’s ass.”
My beginning now, which is still subject to change since I’ve not finished yet and I always rewrite the beginning after I’ve written “The End” is not much better. But better fitting for the title of Double Vision. I’m still thinking up the perfect first sentence. It has to be something completely smart ass, just like Sadie. I will come up with it after I’ve written the last word. That’s usually how this works for me.
“It’s been four weeks! What do you mean clean-up isn’t taken care of yet?” I tapped my pencil on the desk and the eraser’s momentum carried it higher and higher the madder I got. I was speaking to my superior, James Davenport of the Washington D.C. FBI office and I tried to keep my voice down to a whisper but I was fighting a losing battle with my temper. “By now Ivan Petrenkov’s whole operation could be shut down!”
Double Vision is reflective of my plot. There is a lot that can be said for double vision. It can remind you of being drunk in a bar, weaving through the tables as you make your way outside. You vision so blurry you can’t make out which one is real and which one is the fake. It can be the mirror image of my heroine with her twin. The twin is not the main plot. Only the background. Things get very interesting for Sadie when she returns home to Missouri. Practice Makes Perfect Murder wouldn’t fit for this story anymore. To even write that is just silly for me. Bad, bad title. Shame on me. That’s like having a mullet and air-guitaring to Stairway to Heaven.
To me the title is the bread and butter of the cover. It is what will attract a lot of people. It is what will ring in their ears long after they’ve forgotten what the cover looked like. It’s hard to come up with something catchy. And for us writing series’, it’s hard to find something you can use over and over again without it becoming stale. It’s like the perfect accessory. Almost as important as the right shoe for the trouser jeans you love to wear. Without a title, your book would be just another untitled good sitting on the shelf waiting to be picked up, begging to be read.
I know our writing pirate wenches out there have something to share. Give me your best first title and how it’s changed since you’ve began. Do you think a short or a long title is better? For our readers, do you base your reading off title, cover, blurb or a little of everything? What’s the best title you’ve read for a book that seemed to fit perfectly?